'Girls of Riyadh' on Serafina's agenda

Susanne Bohnet in Dubai to wrap up financing

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DUBAI -- An adaptation of the best-seller "Girls of Riyadh" and a biopic of cult 1960s author Khalil Gibran ("The Prophet") are among projects German film-fund veteran Susanne Bohnet is developing as part of her new United Arab Emirates- and U.S.-based company, Serafina Releasing.

Bohnet is in Dubai this week finalizing $100 million of financing from a mix of local companies and private individuals for Serafina, which will finance, produce and distribute feature films in partnership with a network of top-tier distribution companies in Europe and the Middle East.

The company's mandate includes the production of films to serve the Middle East marketplace that continues to expand with new theaters and a projected increase in demand for filmed entertainment.

"There will be 600 million people under the age of 25 in the Gulf region by 2010, and there is a lack of content for them," said Bohnet, who previously worked in Los Angeles for the German funds Equity Pictures and CineMedia. Her credits include the Pierce Brosnan starrer "Matador" and "The Hostage."

Written by Rajaa Al-Sanea, "The Girls of Riyadh" caused a storm when it was published in the Arab world because of its discussions of sex, life for divorced women, lesbianism and women's desires to lead free lives.

As per Bohnet, UTA is packaging the film on Gibran, which was penned by the writer Peter Macdissi and is set to focus on the early life of the Lebanese-American artist, poet, writer and philosopher who was popular with the hippies in the '60s. Gibran is credited as being the third best-selling poet in history.

"To go to America and say, 'I want money' doesn't work anymore," Bohnet said. "America hasn't woken up to the fact that it is no longer the bully anymore and that other places are becoming its equal."

Bohnet doesn't just plan to source money from the UAE but also produce a long list of films in the region. Serafina will work in the $5 million-$60 million budget range.

Bohnet is serving as an executive producer on a number of other films, including "The Killer Inside Me" from Michael Winterbottom, which she said will star Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Casey Affleck and Bill Pullman.

The film is an adaptation of Jim Thompson's best-selling novel of the same name about a Texas sheriff. Bohnet has just completed financing on the Evan Rachel Wood starrer "Clock Tower," which will be directed by "The Hills Have Eyes" director Martin Weisz.